Samantha Drewery fulfils many roles at Tier Five South-West Women’s Regional Premier side Marine Academy Plymouth, whether it be player, treasurer, and social media officer. She spoke to Impetus’ Ben Gilby about the club, player pathway and aims of FA Women’s National League football (21/4/22).
Above: Marine Academy Plymouth players gather together prior to their game with Ilminster. Photo: Tim Badger Photos via Samantha Drewery.
Marine Academy Plymouth (MAP), previously known as Tamarside, are now in their 12th season and have an extensive youth setup with the club itself, including the women’s side having 22 teams with three female youth teams as well.
The women’s side originally competed in the South West Regional Women’s Western Division which they won in 2015 and have been competing in the Premier ever since, narrowly missing out on promotion in three consecutive seasons.
Drewery highlighted some of the challenges that the club have faced in recent times. “With the pandemic having an impact on two seasons, it was quite difficult for players to motivate themselves back into another season. Due to playing on Sundays, some players found that having a weekend free was quite a nice idea, especially with the distances we have to travel to play. However, some players were looking forward to the challenge of having a complete season after losing out on match fitness and competitive fixtures.
“The biggest challenges that face sides in the women’s game in the South West is the amount of travel and time commitment that the players have to buy in to. If you want to play a competitive level of football you have to understand that it will potentially take up your whole Sunday.”
Finances are always an issue, with players needing to either pay to be part of the club or look for a sponsor on top of all the regular bills.
“Some players have struggled with finding sponsors in the past. Along with financial aid towards playing fees to help cover the running cost of the season, such as pitch hire, referee fees, and training facility fees, gaining sponsorship to replenish playing attire can sometimes be a stumbling block as well. We are always looking for sponsors of any amount to help with the day-to-day running of the club to make it as easy as possible to allow the players to continue playing the sport they love.”
The growth of the women’s game has also produced new challenges for MAP, as Samantha explains: “One challenging factor which hasn’t just been this season but previous as well, is the competition for players who want to play at a high standard. We as a club have to compete against sides who are linked with a professional outfit in the men’s league, which to some is more appealing. A small crop of talented players with a number of teams looking to entice them to play for them means that recruiting new players can be quite challenging.”
MAP are currently in the fifth-tier South-West Regional Women’s Premier, one step below the FA Women’s National League. For Drewery, this has been a transitional campaign.
“After finishing strongly post COVID leading into the end of what would have been last season, we lost a high number of players to other local teams playing higher, lower for fun and some even gave up to pursue family commitments. We have picked up some fantastic young players who have jumped into the deep end this season, some in their first season at adult level, and have developed magnificently in character and ability throughout.
“As a club, we have always strived to do the best that we possibly can and to give ourselves the challenge of stepping into Tier Four of the women’s football pyramid by reaching the FA Women’s National League Division One South-West. This will continue to be our aim for next season.
MAP has a well-established pathway for females to develop their footballing skills from a very young age.
“It starts at the age of four, with a number of rising footballers taking part in our community football programme. We have always had a successful Wildcats Programme that allows female players to take part in all girls’ sessions which can formulate teams ready to compete in local Devon Junior Minor leagues.
“We currently are developing an U8 and U10 team for next season, along with our already well-established U13 and two U15 sides, one of which is competing in the boys’ league. Our U13 and one of our U15 sides will be competing in a National Tournament later in April and both have reached the National Futsal Regional Finals in May.
“The integration of the U15s leading into the women’s senior side has been positive. The current crop of players have a high interest in pursuing their game at the club and we hope that many of them will stay with our side and help us push for the promotion into the FA Women’s National League.
“At MAP, we will always strive to give the opportunity to players to showcase their passion and enthusiasm for the sport and encourage them to take part at any age and level.”